Late-night cram sessions, the correct and healthy way
Published: Monday, September 23, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 23, 2013 23:09
Now that the semester is in full swing, you undoubtedly are beginning to have papers, projects and tests. And I sincerely hope you have been studying your hardest, or at least at all.
However, there are only so many hours in the day. If you want to turn in quality work—or you have chosen your social life over your academic one until it has almost become too late—sometimes your study hours spill well into the night.
I am especially guilty of reprehensible procrastination more times than not, which have led to many sleepless nights. I don’t even want to talk about the time my computer crashed at 1 a.m. as I was finishing my conclusion. When 3 a.m. drops, your eyes are drooping and stomach growling, there are some foods and drinks that can actually help you get the most out of your late night cram session.
Your brain is the only organ that runs solely on glucose, also known as blood sugar. Yes, I did just say you brain runs on sugar. However, that does not mean purchasing a Twix bar from your lobby vending machine is the best study snack idea. Your body reacts much better to a consistent flow of glucose, which comes from converting complex carbohydrates into blood sugar, rather than chowing down the cupcake you smuggled out of the dining hall. The carbohydrates that will allow for longer acting mental focus can be derived from foods with whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Not only will these steady carbs staunch your growling and help you focus, it also is known to release a chemical known as serotonin in your brain. This chemical will actually produce a calming energy, which is great for those of us in a slight tizzy realizing we actually know about 13 percent of what we’re supposed to for that test tomorrow.
You may be prone to reaching toward particular snacks while you study—salty, sweet or fatty snacks. If you’re anything like my roommate and crave potato chips while you study, try to substitute them for no or lightly buttered popcorn, veggies, whole wheat pretzels, salted cucumber slices, ants on a log, nuts, sunflower seeds, or pickles.
If you’re anything like me and feel a meal is not complete without a sweet to top it off, you probably naturally reach for the sweets when you study, as well. Some alternatives for this habit, so your brain does not get that unsatisfying sugar rush, can include a fruit salad or fruit cup from the Campus Cupboard, dark chocolate, granola bars, dried fruit—I prefer apricots, mangoes, or pineapples for the sweetness—and fruit leather.
If you are just simply craving something to munch on, try whole grain cereal, graham crackers with peanut butter, yogurt parfaits, English muffin pizzas, frozen grapes, omelets, hard boiled eggs or some low sodium soup.
Now that all this snacking has gone on, the, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” effect has begun, and you probably need something to wash it down with. I sincerely hope your brain did not jump to soft drinks. If you are trying to argue that you drink sugar free or diet sodas so your blood sugar will not spike and cause your focus to decline, I beg to differ.
Diet sodas have to be made sweet in some fashion. That is accomplished by using a sugar substitute, generally one known as Aspartame. I could talk for days on sweeteners—no really, I had to write a nine page paper on them—but I am just going to leave you with this: pregnant women are told to stay away from diet sodas, obviously they cannot be beneficial to your body in any way.
Now that you are hopefully looking for an alternative, water will keep you hydrated and helps your concentration and memory. If water just isn’t cutting it and you are craving some sort of flavor, try flavored water packets or even carbonated flavored water for that soda-like fizz. Another good choice can by different types of juices. Try to choose lower in sugar options; some juices can get fairly high in sugar content and cause a crash instead of the slow and steady energy the fruit is supposed to supply. Skim or soy milk are great options as well, as they provide carbohydrates, protein and nine essential nutrients the body needs for brain and body function.
If I am not drinking flavored water, I am typically drinking coffee. Black coffee has caffeine, but no sugar as well as no calories. Coffee and teas can help keep you awake and as alert as you can be reading page after page, however, they must be consumed in moderation or over a period of time to avoid that dreaded late-night study session crash.
If you do not suffer from chronic procrastination, I am sure you are also a respectable enough student to stay up late studying. When you do so, do not fall into the trap of consuming whatever you please as a reward for all of your hard work. Not even from a nutrient, fat or calorie standpoint, different foods will help you study better.
So next time you use your entire Sunday watching a “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” marathon and now have no other option but to be up until three a.m., try to refrain from reaching for the chips and Cheese-Wiz.